As I write many people have started returning to offices and factories, garden centres are open and non-essential shops are next. We can look at a new house, buy a new car and go on a picnic. It almost feels like life is returning to normal… but of course it isn’t and it won’t for quite a while.
We still can’t see people properly, we can’t go to the pub, most of our children are still at home and there is huge uncertainty about when and how the next steps will be taken. For people who were planning weddings, parties or holidays, the future remains unclear, and, whilst knowing that their concerns are not political priorities, it is very hard to be in limbo.
More pressing concerns come from people who were about to start new jobs, who were starting new companies or developing existing ones. There are many who have lost their jobs or who were about to start their careers. There is innovation and talent out there, but how can we pull it all together again? Will people start spending money both domestically and commercially?
Only time will tell how all of this will work out, but I am a firm believer that, wherever we can, we should make every effort to control our own destinies. We must consolidate and widen our networks, we must think creatively about how to make our businesses work, not just under current restrictions but long-term. We must look at how technology can support us and how we can make technological changes to give us flexibility and scaleability. We must develop and grow our skills.
There is still a tendency to think that the current situation will be over sooner or later and that things will then revert to how they were before but I think that this is a mistake. Not only is it entirely possible that restrictions will come and go, but it is feasible that people’s behaviour has shifted permanently. Furthermore, the chances of another pandemic are far from remote and globalisation means that spread is almost impossible to control entirely.
We are all much more aware of how easily infections spread and social distancing will be here to stay for quite some time so whilst businesses will start up again, they will start up differently and will stay different for a while. That, alongside the recent revelations about home working have changed things for ever and those changes are what we have to gear up for in every aspect of our lives.
The Pluralists Club has been meeting virtually since lockdown started and we have at least three events every week. I am very much looking forward to seeing members in the flesh again but I am also clear that we will continue to offer a virtual line alongside live events in the future. The convenience and flexibility of logging on to Zoom for an hour is just as important as the usefulness of face-to-face networking; there’s room for both and I believe that this is how the future will look.